Coil interviewed in their home in London February 1990. This interview was originally published in 1991.
OH: For most people it may seem that Coil haven't done anything at all since the release of Hellraiser in 1988. What are you actually up to these days?
PC: Well, we have recorded a lot of new material, but until now only a couple of tracks have appeared on various compilation albums.
OH: Rumours were saying that when you made Horse Rotorvator you had enough material to release a double album, but choose to make it a single album. Does that mean that the new material comes from the same session as the Horse Rotorvator?
PC: Some of the recordings on Gold Is The Metal are recordings that were made at the same time as HR, whilst other tracks were experiments from other things. When we did HR we thought that we had enough material to do the new album which we were going to call The Dark Age of Love pretty quick, but actually we had not. The Dark Age of Love simply does not exist! What remained of that session mostly went over into 'Gold' which is sort of a mirror image of Horse Rotorvator: It starts and ends in the same way, but in a strange, distorted way. So the new album will not be The Dark Age of Love, but completely fresh and different from "the old Coil".
OH: You have used a lot of sampling technology on your latest releases. You're not afraid that this will give you a static and sterile sound?
PC: I think that when you have a very clean and straight sound, there might be a chance that you will make sterile music. But if you use a sample from something which is dirty and perverted, you can make music that is dirty and perverted.
OH: But still; aren't you afraid of ending up sounding outdated after a while by using samples that are very popular at a given time?
PC: It is obvious that you do things you like at a certain moment in time. There is a flute sound on 'The first five minutes after Death' which was very popular in commercials at that time. We did it on purpose -we thought it was ok to use something that was really silly in a serious way. Generally speaking we may say that our new album will be less eccentric and slightly more optimistic. But it is that sort of optimism you may find at a party the night before you know something special will happen the day after. It is a kind of psychotic party music, if you like.
OH: Could Horse Rotorvator be seen as a kick against Western society's denial of death?
JB: Yes, because our attitude towards death is so different from most people's. But it is a long time since it was made, and I think we are completely different persons now. Many of our friends have died, or are dying. At that time some of them had already died, and there was some sort of a threat that hung over us. Therefore it was a definitive sadness in some parts of that record. But now we are in the middle of the second wave of death, and one must simply try to cope with life as it is.
PC: There's really no point in being depressed because of this. One may just as well try to do the most out of life while one can. But we try to put in a kick against, or as you say, or an antidote to the western view where death is the end of everything.
OH: How is you relationship to the record companies you put out music on earlier - Laylah for example?
JB: Laylah owes us money, and they cannot pay. They're afraid of us, and they won't answer the letters we send them, and they refuse to talk to us on the phone. They owe us 7000 pounds, and instead of paying us what they owe us, they continue to release new material. It is somehow always an excuse, like for instance that the distributor has all the money, or that they have problems with the factory that makes the records.
PC: Generally, we may say that we have a tendency to attract companies that are complete aresholes when it comes to paying for the expenses we have had.
OH: What about Some Bizzare?
JB: WE have left them for good -they are even worse than Laylah. They owe us 10 000 pounds. And the worst thing is that they give the impression of giving the bands fair treatment, this is something which concerns all independent labels. Even if I go around smashing offices now, it still won't lead to anything. We will not get our money anyway.
OH: Would you say that it would have been better if you were on one of the big companies?
PC: Absolutely not!
JB: Well, maybe. At least they would have given us money. But we do things now without getting paid in advance.
OH: There was some talk of you working together with The Anti Group a couple of years ago?
JB: Yes, that is still in progress. But they are just as fond of isolation as we are, so it has been difficult to organize anything, at the same time that they are just as much perfectionists as we are.
OH: Do you like their stuff?
PC: Some of it. I think we are actually more fond of Adi Newton and his attitude. There is never any bullshit with that guy, he never accepts anything half-heartedly. I think we share more of his attitudes than of his personal taste.
OH: How come you Peter never get involved with musical projects outside of Coil, while you John have been involved in a lot of different projects during the years, as for example Zos Kia, Death In June and Current 93?
PC: I'm not really very interested in music. I very seldom listen to music, but when I do it is music that is very different from so-called alternative music. As for this, I do not consider myself part of that scene.
JB: I listen to certain types of dance music, some parts of the Acid House scene. Apart from that I do not listen to anything unless people give it to me directly. I do not listen to what is called Indie-music, and I do not pay attention to the alternative scene.
OH: It is difficult to find things that may have obviously inspired you in terms of music.
JB: I wouldn’t necessarily go out and copy those things that inspire us. But it happens that we come across music which inspires us. As for instance when we were in Burma and heard a peculiar, strange kind of pop music that was extremely catchy. That inspired us. It constitutes the framework of the song 'Another Brown World on the Sub Rosa compilation Myths Instruction No. 4.
OH: You obviously travel a lot. Does travelling evoke certain impressions/expressions in you?
PC: It is not true that we travel that much, we only make sure people hear about it when we do. Generally I think that the good qualities of European countries have been forgotten or have been hidden away by the people who live there. It's particularly true in England, which actually has a number of good qualities. But they are more or less ignored, very often you cannot see them despite the fact that you live there. I would imagine it's the same thing in the rest of Europe, but in many other cultures those good qualities are closer to the surface.
JB: Things have been done to death in England, the resources have been completely destroyed. People do not take time to bring them out again. I think actually that our new album is more European than the previous ones we have made.
PC: I actually disagree with you there, because I think all our records are European in the topics they deal with. I'm thinking about 'Ergot' and 'Cathedral in Flames', for instance. The symbols are European.
JB: We have our background in bands like Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, and I think that the power of the symbols have been removed in a way.
OH: Are there parts of the PTV/TOPY image you were particularly keen on getting away from?
PC: What I personally feel in as much as I was partially responsible for the shaping of that image at the time when it all started is that today it seems like a naive oversimplification of how the world actually is. And it is quite clear that one of the reasons for us wanting to move away was that it all became too obvious and silly. But they wanted that everything should continue in exactly the same way. The way they focused on religious imagery gradually became completely meaningless.
OH: How do you survive financially?
PC: I have a separate business. I make videos for people. Recently I've made videos for people like Cliff Richard, Erasure, Van Morrison and Robert Plant. But I try to avoid making music videos nowadays, because that form has literally become unnecessary and stupid. Image and symbols has been used too much. A swastika for instance no longer carries any meaning for most people, and in a way it is exactly the same with music videos. They all look more or less the same now. I try to make TV commercials, which give much more money and are much funnier to make. It is also much more honest since it is obvious they are made to sell a product.
OH: Do you use subliminals in your music?
JB: Perhaps, but we don't do it in an obvious way. In PTV there were a lot of backmasking and subliminals, but we do not focus on that in Coil. I am a bit skeptical towards the actual effect of all this. If I wanted people to worship Satan I would have said it straight forward, and not backwards. I don't think it works like that. I don't think the brain can hear things backwards and then turn it around and comprehend it.
OH: I have waited a long time for your Bar Maldoror live album and video which you were going to release a long time ago.
PC: So have we! Take it easy, it will come. On one side of the record we will make some kind of a live performance for the video, and we will also make a video for the new song 'Love's secret Domain' on the new album.
OH: What exactly is Bar Maldoror in this setting -is it a particular place? Originally it was a surrealist cafč back in the 1920's, wasn't it?
JB: Yes, but it's not that which is the point about this concept, that it’s supposed to be a particular place. It could be anywhere. It is Bar Maldoror in the minute you want it to be. When we travelled around in Thailand we filmed certain places, and these places became Bar Maldoror the minute we started. It doesn't have to be a bar or anything, it is a floating concept. We will record the whole session next year with Steven Stapleton from Nurse With Wound, who has also released a record in this series where Current 93 was the first release.
OH: What does Horse Rotorvator actually mean?
JB: It is apocalyptic. It has already been, and what we have left is the remains. It's over - finished. (laughs)
OH: But the title was also related to a certain action of the IRA?
PC: The IRA blew up a parade of horses and soldiers.
OH: Do you think that was an OK thing to do?
PC: No, we're not in favor of terrorist acts. But what actually happened was that they more or less unintentionally created an image which had complications and echoes on a variety of different levels.
JB: The title relates to an interpretation of what actually happened, with horses exploding and being thrown out on the streets. It was a bloody bizarre and sick picture where people walking in the streets had pieces of horse gore raining over their heads.
PC: The IRA did two actions in one week. One of them blew up a horse parade and the other one was a bomb explosion in a pavilion where military orchestras play. It is this one that is pictured on the cover of the album. IRA never expressed that there were a link between the two actions.
OH: Have you mixed politics into all this?
JB: Personal politics. We obviously have political views like anybody else, even if we don't exactly spread it out all over our records.
OH: Once you agreed on doing a live show in Germany if your request on having a flock of sheep running around in the audience were followed. What happened?
JB: I'm glad you mention it, because I recently heard that the band KLF has copied our idea. The point is that the people behind the festival wouldn't allow us to do it, so therefore there was no concert.
OH: Have you made any videos for Coil except “Tainted Love?”
PC: We made one for 'The Wheel' in 1982.
OH: It's peculiar that you don't make more videos when Peter is working with that media.
PC: Yeah, but when we make videos it's with other people's money, or when others pay for the expenses. In fact we have made two new videos, and we will possibly release a video compilation with five or six different tracks.
JB: We have also thought about asking Derek Jarman to make a video for the new album, but we cannot afford to pay him much. We are not going to release the soundtrack for the Angelic Conversation as it is now, but we are going to negotiate in order to get the film released as video, and then the music of course will be on that. It will in that case be released on our own company, Threshold House. We would have to restructure the soundtrack very heavily if we were to release it separately, it would be too boring otherwise.
PC: The new album has things that people tell us is commercial. We can't help it. Anyway, the things we find commercial sounds threatening in other people's ears, it is just a question of values. Nothing of what we do is meant to be commercial, we do it because we like it at a certain point in time. The new album is more extreme without us sounding like Current 93 at all.
OH: Do you think your following has changed after the release of Horse Rotorvator?
JB: I have no idea. Possibly... I think people lose interest because we do not do that much. People that are concerned about being fans would probably find themselves another band, but that does not worry me much.
PC: Generally I think people like us especially because of our attitudes. More than the possibility of us appealing to people who want posters and badges with Coil, and run around with T-shirts to show that they are fans. Generally the people who like us are not of the fanatical fan type. We always print "contact Coil" on our records, but I must confess that it's much funnier to receive letters from people telling us about themselves instead of asking a hell of a lot of questions. It is much more interesting when people write about the situation they’re in, for instance "I am dying." (laughs)
JB: We have received letters from people in the USA that have AIDS, who says they have gained a lot from listening to Horse Rotorvator. They said that it matched their own attitudes, and generally a lot of people were grateful that we made that album at that time.
OH: Do you have any relationship to the Situationist Movement and their ideas of the importance of abolishing the Western value system?
JB: Yes, indeed. The only problem is that we are so involved with the media and all sorts of technology, and it is bloody difficult for us to prove that we are real human beings in the way the Situationists talked about being real human beings.
OH: You worked with Boyd Rice aka Non on the 'Sickness of Snakes' session. What was that like?
PC: We organized structures that he moved in, and he suggested a number of things. It was a very simple way of working, and it all happened very quickly. I find him most interesting when he works with other people. On his own he has a tendency to end up in power noise that in a way becomes too ambient.
OH: How did you organize the structure on 'Sicktone', a tune you claim could have certain effects on the psyche of the listener?
JB: The sick tone came from a cassette I received from something called the Chaoscahmber, people working with magic. There were two tones on the tape, and they said; whatever you do, don't put these two tones together!
PC: Which we did! (laughs)
JB: When putting these two tones together we strengthened the effect, and we added a beat that ran as fast as a stressed heart. On full volume it certainly has a psychological effect.
OH: How did you arrange 'How to Destroy Angels'?
JB: WE used bullroarers, an instrument used by the Australian aborigines, and we performed specific rituals before the recordings started. We put in as many connections and implications as possible. We received reactions from people who wanted to use the song as we suggested on the cover (i.e. for the accumulation of male sexual energy). Many wrote and said it didn't last long enough. When it gets down to it, who can have sex in only 17 minutes? One can hardly get started! The next thing we're going to record is a CD with ritual music related to Mercury, and it will last for 75 minutes. But it is very hard to find the right kind of instrumentation.
OH: Rose Mcdowall, originally of Strawberry Switchblade, sings on your new single. Can you tell me a little bit about her?
JB: She's completely crazy. She once was a passenger on a flight that was about to crash. Everyone around here naturally were hysterical, but she just sat there completely calm and said: "Wow, this is brilliant!". She just sat there completely relaxed and enjoyed the whole thing, she thought it was the greatest feeling she had had in her whole life. She distorts every expected human emotion you're supposed to have. I work together with Rose's old boyfriend Drew in a band called Black Light District, we make house music. In the right conditions acid house can work fine. But everything that is independent, everything that has a new and creative energy in this country gets absorbed by the system.
OH: Are you so fond of isolationism that it borders on misanthropy?
JB: Well, there is some truth in this. We do not suffer fools gladly. It is extremely seldom we invite people to our house for tea, to put it that way, and when we meet strangers we are usually in opposition. We may perfectly well reduce people to shit within two minutes.
OH: John, are you constantly living on a razor's edge, do you push yourself to the limit in every circumstance?
JB: No. Well sometimes, but it's impossible to live like that all the time. When I write lyrics I sometimes do it on amphetamine, but it is dangerous in the long run. If you stay on your own the whole time you may flip out quite radically in madness without being aware of it, but the minute you meet other people you may feel completely crazy, and that may ruin you completely. It happens that I push myself over the limits of sanity, but I can come out on the other side and still be sane. There are always changes in one's life, it is something you just have to accept, as long as it does not hurt you or other people. We have a friend who's an epileptic. His only problem is that he's afraid of others reactions when he has a fit. I always tell him that it doesn't bother me, just collapse and feel free.
OH: What does living here in London give you?
JB: A headache! Please remind me of the advantages of living here. I would much rather live somewhere else, but one gets stuck and dependent of all the advantages.
PC: One takes all the advantages for granted after a while anyhow, and one forgets what it's like to live without them. In many ways we would have preferred to live in a more isolated part of the country, but we need to know what's going on, we don't want to miss anything.
OH: You seem to have a lot of things you're obsessed about...
PC: I think obsessions are fine. I don't understand people who are not obsessed by something. I mean that if you are interested in something you should follow the line all the way through. I think it's wrong to be interested in something without trying to find out everything one can about it, even if the interest apparently may seem to be irrelevant for what you are actually doing. I for one am completely hooked up on underground tunnels, and I try to find out everything about such phenomena.
OH: Are you especially keen on trying to avoid connections the various fashion-like occult trends of our time -I know magic plays a great part in your lives...
JB: I think it's bad to be connected with it in a shallow way.
PC: I think an unbelievably huge amount of so-called alternative bands use symbols as pompous tool. It is not something they really believe in, they use it simply because it would then look like they have some values. And their over-active use of these symbols in a way makes them weaker. We have used certain symbols on our sleeves, but we don't have a system built on them, and the things they signify are not central. It is things that are connected to what we believe in and what we do. But Coil's use of symbols are much more complex than just putting on some symbols now and then. Symbols seem to reach a stage where they become drained and worn out. I really find it difficult to make something without giving a too obvious reference to something which is done before. And this is the reason why Coil records seem to be pretty low-key, difficult to place in a easily defined concept.
OH: Could you say something about the different songs on Horse Rotorvator?
JB: 'Blood from the Air' is tied up with the frost rune, and is based on a poem by Philip Lamantia. 'Ostia' is a tribute to a friend of ours who passed away, Leon. Dover came into the picture because another friend of ours jumped over the cliffs. And this brings in the subject of beaches. Pasolini was murdered on the beach of Ostia. Ostia means sacrifice, in English it means a bone; "Throw his bones over...." The mixing of places. Pasolini comprehended his own death, I think he wanted to die the way he did. 'Anal Staircase' is tied up with the tantric concept of Kundalini. John Peel phoned us and said he liked the song, but that he could not play it due to the sound of children screaming in the background. He had also heard that it was recordings of the Moors-murderers Myra Hinley and Ian Brady in the background, but neither of it is true. What you hear is the sound of a friend of ours playing with his child, and neither is there any recording of the Moors-murderers there. The whole thing sounds suspicious, but it really just innocent play. People are so hysterical....
PC: A fundamentally important part of our philosophy is that people should be individual thinkers, and experience things in their own terms. That may be why we are not very much involved in group activity. When people are willing to do anything for people they don't know I think it is something wrong with them, and that was the fact with many of the persons that came to us in TOPY. Most of them were prepared to do anything for us while we were there, and they had obvious signs of mental or emotional problems. There were certain types who needed this, they had a psychological need for being told what to do no matter what the consequences would have been. People with that kind of problems is generally very little point in having hanging around, it only becomes dull, and one feels a responsibility for them.
OH: What kind of perspectives do you have for the future?
JB: I think that in the span of our lifetime we will experience a world in complete chaos. It is supposed to be like mankind has finally found its rhythm after all the regimes in Eastern Europe has fallen, but at the end of the day it is simply capitalism congratulating itself because the enemies have disappeared. They say it is the New Age of Man, and that is completely meaningless! What is the actual benefit of this change? What and who comes instead?
PC: The implications of being gay are perhaps the acceptance of the fact that society does not continue. We do not fertilize. I think there appears to be a relatively small portion of the world's inhabitants worth saving. It probably sounds very misanthropic, but I'm prepared to die if the rest of the world's population goes with me.